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Beal Blog: Triumph and Technology

Sept. 06, 2014, 6:16 a.m. (ET)

Doug Beal is the CEO of USA Volleyball. He is in Krakow, Poland for the first round of the FIVB Men's World Championship

KRAKOW, Poland (Sept. 4 2014) – The match report for today is pretty easy to write; the USA totally dominated Puerto Rico (PUR). The scores were 15, 8 and 20!!

Paul Lotman
  Paul Lotman prepares for the serve on Thursday in Krakow.

Our team was good in every part of the game. We forced PUR into a negative attack efficiency with strong serving and 11 stuff blocks. We made only one hitting error for the match, had 12 more kills and generally played at a very high level. It was good to see and the rhythm and level of play was the best of the event so far.

Paul Lotman started and played the entire match in one of the outside hitter positions, which means almost every member of the team has started at least a set in the three matches played to date. That ought to be a positive as we head into the last two very tough matches here with France (FRA) and Italy (ITA). As I mentioned last time, winning 3-0 or 3-1 gets you the max of three points and we needed that to head into our final two pool opponents, FRA and ITA (both of whom survived close matches winning 3-1 each, over IRI and BEL respectively). 

Tomorrow is another day off, some training, get refreshed and go after FRA on Saturday. So far we have played all our matches in the afternoon, at 4:30 and 1 p.m. A little unusual, but the times here have allowed the organizers to sell those two separate tickets each match day. I’m told that the last two days here in Krakow are totally sold out (15,000). Our pool is the only one without an undefeated team at this point in the tourney, not surprising given the balance and quality of the teams.

The arena here was opened earlier this summer and is really beautiful. It looks a bit like a flattened egg from the outside, and the entire exterior skin can be lit up for a light show, to flash messages, etc.; pretty spectacular, especially at night. The ride to and from the hotel to the arena is not long, but always entertaining with our police escort trying to move two lanes of traffic off of a two-lane road – making judicious use of the sidewalks and center medians. The best part is when we abandon the roads and speed down the trolley tracks (with or without the trolley cars heading our way)!

Team USA Fans
  Young fans cheer for the U.S. Men in Krakow.

One of the significant technical innovations in use here is the Video Replay System (or COACH CHALLENGE SYSTEM). There are 18 small cameras positioned to cover every line on both sides of the net, and see the net/center line and also look for touches by the block. Each coach has two challenges/set, but keeps them if the challenge is successful (in other words the challenging coach is right). The coach uses a hand signal to indicate to the second ref that he wants to “challenge” a particular call. The second ref than goes behind the scorer’s table to view the images that best show the action or play being questioned (on a table with several monitors and operators who can call up the play from any of the cameras), then determines whether the original call stands or gets reversed. The play in question is also then shown on the arena’s giant screen, allowing the audience in the arena as well as the TV audience to see the play and resulting call. In theory, it’s a terrific use of technology and dramatically helps inform and engage the crowd. There are also some bugs that need to be worked out, as well as improve the process. It is very likely that within a year or two, this will have become quite standard at more levels of our sport than just major international events; it really adds a tremendous amount to the match, both in clarifying calls, as well as getting some close ones right, as well as getting the fans more “into” the match! There’s so much terrific technology and tools available that can enhance the experience for the fan and also assist the very demanding job of the officials. 

Hoping for continued better and better play from Team USA against FRA on Saturday.  More then,   DB